Amidst a beautiful sunset, Shu is violently whisked away to a grim future devoid of water, and empty of hope; a place where children are forced to become soldiers, and kill countless others in the name of King Hamdo. Shu's companion is a mysterious girl named La La Ru, who may hold the key to survival. Now, he must concentrate on the only things that matter: escaping Hellywood, and finding a way home.
StoryAnime with inspirational humanitarian messages are exceedingly hard to come by. Most attempts get bogged down in contrivances, never moving beyond manipulative, hackneyed tragedies to stir viewers into some kind of reaction. This is why, when a show like Now and Then, Here and There comes along, I can't help but pinch myself. Although NTHT's mild sci-fi universe removes it from any direct association with historical wars, its powerful themes of child soldiers, rape, and state terrorism should be familiar to anyone who switches on the news once in a while. Moreover, regardless of life experience or education, nobody will struggle to 'get it' - NTHT hammers home the message with such brutal simplicity that it's accessible even to a child. In fact, I suspect that this is precisely the point. The show is in part about a mad ruler, Hamdo, and the way his madness comes rolling down the proverbial hill to swamp the nation in senseless war. While imperialism is a universal tragedy, and one that's plagued humanity since the birth of nations, NTHT's twist is to put a brave face on this old and common theme. That face happens to be the adolescent protagonist Shu, who pulls the plug on Hamdo's bloodbath by influencing everyone with his relentless sense of justice. Much friction in the plot centres on him trying to cope with people's defeatist perspectives on war and changing them. If Takahata's seminal Grave of the Fireflies is a non-judgemental look at the loss of innocence, NTHT actively invites its audience to take a stance on the rights and wrongs of that loss. Shu's brand of pacifism won't convince everyone, of course, but the show would hardly be masterful if it promised bland, easy-to-swallow solutions. More importantly, while the series takes a pacifist stance on the question of violence, it still leaves enough room for others to form their own conclusions.AnimationDon't judge an anime by its screenshots. I say this because I'm sure some can't help raising an eyebrow at the lacklustre character designs and generic backgrounds. Indeed, while a flashier concept design wouldn't have hurt, neither does NTHT need it. The animation is simply superfluous to its message; it looks decent enough to avoid petty distractions (motion is satin-smooth, for example), but it shies away from frazzling retinas with pointless special effects.SoundIn a similar minimalist vein to the animation, the soundtrack holds back most of the time. The opening theme is a pleasant enough instrumental, but the ending theme is so infinitely slow that I've never bothered to sit through it.CharactersA theory in Social Psychology asserts that minorities can influence a majority population, but to do this they must be consistent - their message has to be unwavering. Shuzo Matsutani, the plucky protagonist, is the theory put into practice. After suffering a comical defeat at kendo training, his opponent says to him that he can't win just by charging in blindly. Shu's puzzled response is, 'I can't? Really?' Indeed, he's a witless champ (sometimes a woeful chump) but a fully determined one. This is also the reason why he's the only hero that could succeed in NTHT's defeatist context; while everyone around him splashes helplessly in the tide of anarchy, he remains a moral anchor, always doing the right thing and never giving in to despair. By no means does his staunch goodness make him passive or uninteresting - in fact, his behaviour raises controversial questions all of its own. For example, is a shout of 'daijoubu' the right response to every complex tragedy? Shu believes it is; the audience can make up its own mind. He's not the only character to stir viewers into emotional and intellectual conflict. Lady Abelia, while a brave, capable second-in-command to Hamdo, also gives orders for torture, rape and kidnapping of children. Nabuca, a conscientious leader in Hamdo's army is also a willing tool of oppression for his own selfish ends. Many of the characters are a mixture of victim and villain, each giving the general impression that, had the circumstances been kinder, they could have been positive people like Shu.OverallIf you're looking for a provocative experience, switch off Gundam Wing or Code Geass or whatever confused, pseudo-political fluff you're watching. Instead, try this straight-talking anime with an invigorating perspective on the horrors of war. Carving a bold pacifist path through the jungle of moral what-ifs, NTHT is a tale of human endurance the likes of which hasn't graced our world since Grave of the Fireflies.
StoryThe story is the best part of the series. However, it is important to know that NTHT's plot develops slowly at first. So if you don't like lots of dialogue and want more action, this anime probably would not be a good watch. NTHT's strength lies in its ability to stir emotions through great plot and character development. The beginning episodes focus on laying out the story, characters, and setting. In the middle of the plot, expect a bit of dialogue because it is slowly building up momentum to the series great climax. The ending has its own twists and turns, and it will keep you on the edge of your chair until the very end. AnimationThe animation of Now and Then, Here and There (NTHT) is a bit plain. There aren't any special CGI effects or anything remotely spectacular. However, it has nice crisp, clear flowing animation that is pleasing to the eyes. The animation style is quite well done for its time. Characters do not have big glassy eyes, but rather normal circular ones with a little depth. Though work was put into creating distinctive animated characters, it was just enough to make them appealing. The opening sequence is quite plain and serves more of an opening credits introducing the characters. The ending sequence is beautiful, soft-hearted and shows nice background scenes.SoundIn my opinion, this is the one area that NTHT was most deficient. The only memorable songs were the opening and closing theme "Komoriuta". Although the opening theme was filled with warmth, it didn't quite fit the overall feeling of NTHT. However, the closing theme perfectly fits the dramatic, melancholy tone of the series. Background music was good enough to express the current situation, but it didn't quite invoke major mood changes or memorability. Moreover, voice acting for all the characters was well done. It is clear that the seiyuu tried their best to express as much emotion as possible into every character.CharactersThe characters in NTHT are quite memorable. The creator carefully devised good distinctive characters with different personalities that allow you to easily associate with them. Shu is a typical Japanese boy that is forced to face the hardships of a new desert world. He always looks forward to the future and tries not comfort others the best he can in their times of need. Although Lala-Ru plays an important role in the story, she serves more as a passive character. She doesn't speak much, but she is more important than she appears. In contrast, Sara's character is quite memorable and maybe the character with the most character development. Like Shu, she was forcibly taken into the desert world. Of all the characters in the series, I believe that she is the most memorable. Her personality throughout the duration of the series changes significantly. As mentioned before, this anime is a drama, so expect more dialogue than explosive action scenes. The distinctiveness of each character is what makes NTHT unique and special. OverallIf you love to have your emotions stirred up, NTHT is a must see. The ending is not a let down, and it actually comes full circle. However, if you like action/fighting/mecha anime, you would probably become bored with the dialogue and the lack of fighting and action scenes. I really loved this anime. It has a special flare like Crest of the Stars (Seikai no Monshou). When you first watch the anime, you probably will be thinking, "Well this isn't really exciting." But this anime definitely has a natural charm, always leaving you with the feeling to see the next episode. And before you know it, you become sucked into the characters and plot, and you'll just want to see it to the end. NTHT is a definite must see for drama anime watchers.
This anime is famous for fooling the unexpected to think it is yet another silly children’s adventure. Well it’s not because it deals with some heavy themes around the tragedies of war. And then it infamous for fooling you again by thinking it will be very serious and mature in the way it presents its story when in reality it is still doing everything superficially. And this is where the dichotomy of the audience comes; depending on which part you prefer is crucial in eventually liking or not the entire show. Of course this is an anime and it has the liberty to be as unrealistic as it wants to be. Most people by default suspend their disbelief quite easily actually (we wouldn’t have religions if they didn’t) and thus if you belong in this category of viewers, chances are you will enjoy it a lot. The story starts in a typical fashion. A normal boy living in our normal world meets a silent girl and before he realizes it, he is magically transported to a different world, where he needs to survive and find a way to help the girl and return home. So far you probably expect some sort of Digimon or Monster Rancher variant. Yet behold, in this world almost everything is a wasteland and people are living in small communities close to bodies of water. The villains of the story are warlords who are constantly fighting for water and along the way they forcefully take away children and through propaganda make them obedient soldiers in their conflicts. Unlike typical children’s adventures, the bad guys are humans and not generic monsters. And there is a huge amount of suffering, torture, death, even rape, elements that create a very dark and depressing setting that depicts some of the worst aspects of war. The basic theme is how children are forced to fight the wars of the grown ups and how they are brainwashed with deception to become inhuman killing machines, expendable units in the portfolio of megalomaniacs. The emotional impact this has on the viewer is tremendous. Although none of the characters are special in any way when it comes to personalities, the cruel nature of the show is making you sympathize with them. Thus the typical shonen hero, the silent damsel in distress, the insane general, all of them are caricatures but highly easy to feel something about them because of the high shock effect of the tragedy. At the same time, this is not a realistic show in the least. There is a lot of magic convenience going around and the finale feels forced. Down to it the anime is a dark fairy tale. Dark, yet a fairy tale; easy to inflict emotions on you and easy to dismiss all its plot devises as nothing but superficial means to tell a story. If you don’t think about it much, it can work. The production values are average to bad in overall, as there is little detail in drawing and not much shading or special effects going around, while the setting is basically a monotonous desert with occasional mechanized camps and rural villages. This very simplicity is what makes the feeling of the story to crawl on you easier, since everything is basically black or white in morals. So are the characters and their generic looks. The girl is a simple savior of sorts and nothing further; you care for her just for that. The general is an insane megalomaniac and nothing more; you hate him for being just that. And so on, and so on with the rest of the cast. Practically, the tragedy around the world and its cast is more important than them but subconsciously most can easily be fooled to redirect the feeling on the former and completely disregard how the entire show is basically a superficial anti-war propaganda show that feeds on the viewer’s sensitivity on watching children suffering. Rather cheap but it works. But anyway, the unexpected tragedy in a children’s adventure formula is more than enough to deem the anime as something out of the ordinary and in general worthy of watching. The themes may be presented superficially but they are otherwise very true in most wars. The characters may all be caricatures but this way they are easily understood and loved or hated. Especially the evil general; I really loathed that bastard. The ending is as I said rather convenient and is mostly there to wrap things and bring closure to the tragedy in a cheery way, thus leaving the audience with tears of joy. Again, it is cheap but it works. It is by no means a masterpiece as some may claim because of the convenient factor. There are far better war dramas, such as Area 88 or even Grave of the Fireflies. Yet it is definitely an above average series since it deals with elements most shows refuse to depict in general and by the end of the day it is good for boldly going where not many have gone before… even if it’s tripping here and there every now and then. And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 7/10 General Artwork 2/2 (interesting setting) Character Figures 1/2 (generic) Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series) Animation 1/2 (basic) Visual Effects 1/2 (basic) SOUND SECTION: 7/10 Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series) Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series) Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess) STORY SECTION: 6/10 Premise 2/2 (interesting) Pacing 1/2 (erratic) Complexity 2/2 (rich context) Plausibility 0/2 (none) Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy) CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10 Presence 1/2 (generic) Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded) Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there) Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there) Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there) VALUE SECTION: 5/10 Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting retro title) Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too much overblown drama) Memorability 3/4 (extremely tragic to the point of easily remembering it) ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10 Art 0/1 (looks lazy) Sound 0/2 (sounds meh) Story 1/3 (interesting themes but presented childishly) Characters 2/4 (tragic but otherwise typical) VERDICT: 5.5/10
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